Friday, August 15, 2014

When Hope Can't be Found {personal thoughts on depression and suicide}

Have you ever lost hope? Ever looked in the mirror, with tears streaming down, wishing it could all be over? Ever felt the weight of the world closing in on you? That there might not be a reason to go on?
Well, I have. 

Many times. Much more than I wish in my short 32 years.

As I am beginning this post, I am hesitating. Should I write these words? Or should I hit the delete button right now before this gets too messy? I am going to start by saying this post is uncomfortable. Maybe more real than some people will like. Maybe you will judge me. Maybe you will leave and never come back.

But I want to share these words. Before I can give you one more diy tutorial or show you a fun craft project I did with the kids. Before I take more pretty pics of a styled set-up in my home. I want to share my personal experience with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Because....more than the number of comments a post gets, or the amount of followers I have, or the money to be found in my AdSense account, or the cool opportunities or sponsored posts I could potentially get offered, more than any of that...

I want this blog to be real

Really, really, really, at the end of the day, real. Me. Just as I am.

With the recent death of Robin Williams, I have been contemplating it a lot. Why talented and artistic people are also often plagued with (sometimes debilitating) depression. I keep thinking about him and what it must have felt like in those moments when he lost all hope. For the last time.

It makes my heart feel heavy inside. But also makes me want to open up about my own experience. I have a couple of times in the past on my Typepad blog. Touched on my depression after the birth of my daughter Hazel, but it has been quite awhile since I have brought it up here, years in fact.

So, here goes.

I have depression.

You might be thinking, no big deal? Lots of people have that. And yes, they do. But there are still so many people who feel alone with it. It is still taboo. Even in 2014 it can make people uncomfortable.

I have had it for a long time. I diagnose myself all the way back to junior high (I have a BA in Psychology so I can do that right? ha). I could have had it before then. It's called dysthymia and is defined as "a chronic type of depression in which a person's moods are regularly low. However, symptoms are not as severe as with major depression."

I have taken several different types of medication, gone to a variety of counselors and therapists, and relied on my faith to get me through. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try though, the chemistry in your brain trumps all of your efforts, and you sink lower and lower and lower.

The first time that I contemplated suicide was in high school. Life often felt like it was closing in on me and I couldn't bear the weight. My parents had a messy divorce when I was young and I had what some might consider a rough childhood. The arguments, custody battles, domestic violence that I witnessed and other family issues all lead to me feeling like suicide was the only way out. The only way to finally be free of the pain. (Please note: I am not blaming my parents for this. They are not to blame. I know that they love me and wish I had never felt this way. This was simply how my brain reacted to the stress I was experiencing.)

I was (and am) a perfectionist. I have always been hard on myself and very self-conscious. I never felt like I was good enough and have lived with guilt feelings for much of my life. Because my parents didn't "plan me" and had such a difficult relationship, I believed several lies like, You shouldn't be here. You weren't wanted. You caused this mess. You are the reason they are so miserable. If you hadn't been born they would never have been together. 

Most of the time, I didn't consider suicide, but prayed, instead, for God to take me. To end it all for me. To let me go from this world that was too much for me. He didn't answer those prayers (at least not in the way I was hoping at the time).

Back in the summer of 2011, I had the worst case of depression I can ever recall. It wasn't dysthymia. It was a full blown case of postpartum depression. If I didn't get help when I finally did, I could have ended up being one of those women you hear about on the news. I was right on the verge of some "crazy" thoughts.

I had a baby at 31 weeks and spent the first fifty days of her life going back and forth to the NICU to visit her. I didn't feel like her mother. She belonged to the doctors and nurses. They knew what to do for her, not me.

Then one day it was time to bring her home. I was so happy and thought everything was going to be wonderful and perfect just like everyone tells you before you have a baby. Wasn't it?

And then there were no more doctors and nurses (other than the home health care nurse who came for 20 minutes once a week). I was supposed to be her mom. My husband went back to work and it was all on me. She cried more hours than she didn't. I had to give her several medications several times a day for her severe reflux. I had to try nursing her all by myself, even though it hadn't been going well the last two weeks at the hospital, even with the help of the lactation consultants. I called her pediatrician almost every day. I was convinced terrible things were going to happen. She had issues breathing in the hospital, so I lived in fear. I didn't understand how I could be trusted to care for this person. It felt like a curse. Not a blessing. 

I was so alone. And eventually...I drew nearer and nearer to the precipice called "no hope."

When my husband would come home, I would hand her off and he would just say, "Go." He knew I couldn't handle it anymore. I would choose between going straight to bed (even if it was five in the evening) or sit in my big old clawfoot tub. Such a thing of beauty when we first bought our home. One of the perks that made us decide to buy this "too small" house.

In those days though, it became my place of longing for death. I would sit in that tub imagining the water turning red with the blood from my wrists. And that felt good. The only way I can explain that is perhaps by imagining it, I could feel a release, for a moment, from the pain.

That tub is where I would fantasize that I had a garage. Not for storage of all my junk. One where I could pull my car into, close the door and say goodbye.

I remember getting to the point where I couldn't even cry anymore. I was numb. I almost felt like I didn't exist. Like I was a ghost watching everyone and whispering quietly, "Hey, I am here. Can you feel me? Can you see me?" But they didn't answer.

Maybe that is how Robin Williams felt. Maybe he felt so alone even with family and friends and millions of fans. I don't know what was going through his mind that day, other than somehow, for at least one moment, he was without hope. To me that is the saddest state anyone could ever find themselves. I wish I could have the opportunity to go to that person right before that moment and say, Wait, there is hope. Please, please, please. Don't give up now. Just wait one more second.

Because I know it can be good again. Once you get through that moment. That dark time. There is hope on the other side. And laughter. And family. And moments of joy. There is a future. It's there... past the dark curtain with the sign overhead that says, "NO HOPE BEYOND THIS POINT."

That sign is a lie.

If we could just brush our fingers through that curtain right before and get a glimmer. See a flicker of light. But sadly, some people don't get that chance. That sign is the end.

Even though I wish I could hold the hand of everyone losing hope and about to jump off the precipice of no return, and remind them of the beauty they bring to this world, I can't. And we don't get to go back and do that. We only have now. We only have this moment. If you know someone who is depressed, have you reached out? Have you offered hope? Even with just a moment of being there. Saying, Hey, I notice you. I can feel you here. You are not a ghost to me. Maybe by something simple, a hug, a note in the mail. A flicker of light. A glimmer of hope.

Maybe you could pull someone back from that precipice without even knowing it.

This is raw, I know. That is how it is though. And if we don't talk about it, how can we help others going through the same thing? If we keep pretending everything is "okay" all the time, or we shove things aside because they are too "uncomfortable."

I used to feel like such a terrible person for having depression. I remember hearing people say that Christians couldn't really get depressed unless you weren't following God. My humble answer to that...God was the only thing that I was holding onto in those dark, suicidal moments. The only one I was calling on to help me. Save me. Pull me up, Lord. I am begging you. I know he was there when I was in that tub. I couldn't hear him. And I certainly couldn't see him. The fog that I was in was much too thick.

But he was there. He never left my side.
It's hard I know. And so uncomfortable. And sometimes, as much as we are involved in someones life, we truly might not see it. Some depressive people get very good at hiding it. I did. I got A's in high school. I was an overachiever, involved in groups and activities. I took showers, wore make-up and nice clothes. I went out with friends. And then some nights curled on the floor asking God to take me. Free me from the pain I am hiding.

When I battled PPD, I hid it for a long time. If people came over, I said I had things to do upstairs. They just want to see the baby anyways. They don't care about me. When my husband went to visit his family, I stayed home. "She needs a break" was a good excuse. An easy out. Maybe they didn't see it. Maybe they didn't know that when I was upstairs or alone at home, I was weeping, wishing someone would come and open that curtain a little bit for me. Show me that there was hope on the other side. Tell me that I wasn't really alone.

If you are reading this and you are at that point where you are feeling beyond hope, I am reaching out for you right now...opening that curtain. Don't believe that sign overhead. You can't read it correctly right now. The chemistry in your brain isn't working properly. What it really says is, "HOPE IS ON THE OTHER SIDE." Your future is in there. Please come in. You are welcome here. Welcome in the beauty and the joy of this life. It is for you too. There will be more trials but also incredible moments of joy that you don't want to miss. There is so much goodness waiting for you.

It is for you.
If you are struggling with this right now, please call someone, tell someone you trust. Don't lose hope. Don't forget that you have beauty inside of you that so many others can see. Even if you can't right now. It is there. Please, don't give up on yourself. There is hope on the other side. I promise.

Whether you are a person of faith or not, there is a book filled with hope. You know the one I am talking about. If you have one at home, open it up right now and find hope from the only one who can truly give it. If you don't have one, you can read it right here.

If you are contemplating suicide please seek help immediately:

I am offering the last image in this post as a free printable for you. Click on the link below to save it to your computer. Print it out, hang it somewhere you can see it every day and remember that there is beauty and joy in this life for you.


I hope you will return even though I have shown you my darkest and dustiest of places. The ones I wish I could cover up with something pretty. But this is part of my story. 

My perfectly imperfect story. Where the beauty is.

If you have an experience of your own that you feel compelled to share, I am all ears. Either in a comment below or send me an email

Till next time...
~Alice W.

Other posts of interest:

The first two posts are from my former Typepad blog where I discussed my PPD (eventually I hope to move these over but haven't gotten a chance yet):

The Ups and Downs of Hazel Days

The Darkest Days

When Your Child is in Pain

37 comments :

  1. You have a beautiful testimony Alice. I'm sure it isn't always easy to share, but God will reward you for doing so!! I am glad you are able to always find hope through Him. :)

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  2. Thank you for sharing this real and honest account of your life. I don't struggle with depression, but my heart goes out to those who do. I love that you shared hope at the end!

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  3. Alice, I admire you so much for sharing this. Your post is so well written and remarkably honest. I also have dysthymia and I can trace it back to my teen years. I did my best to hide it and I suffered for a long, long time before getting help. Fortunately, I am now on medication that has totally changed my life. I am not as brave as you to share this on my blog but I am so happy that you did. No one should have to suffer for so long when there is so much help and hope out there. Thank you so much for helping to bring this out into the open and take away some of the stigma ~ you're awesome!

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    1. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story here with me JoAnne. It is always an encouragement to not feel alone in this! Thank you for your beautiful and kind words.

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  4. Alice, thank you for sharing your story and battle through depression. My heart just aches for what you have endured, but I am so glad God gave you the hope to continue. You bless so many lives. Sending you big hugs!

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    1. Thank you Sheila! I so appreciate you :)

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  5. You are wonderful my dear Alice, I wish you all the best in everything you do and I hope you may find beauty in every single day to come... hugs, Mira...

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  6. I am not running off Alice! I have so much respect for you in sharing this part of your life. I can't imagine it because I have never been there , but I told my husband "don't you think something has to snap in the brain to actually commit suicide?"...I have no answers, but I am so , so very thankful that you chose the help needed and chose to stay here in this sometimes very ugly world. You are a breath of fresh air in this old {lol} woman's soul and I am so glad I found you long ago in blog land. Just continue to hold onto God and your faith and He will see you through, but you already know that. :) Will life be perfect...no...absolutely not. No perfection until we get to Heaven...but He is our rock! Love you girl!!

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    1. Thank you Sandi! I am so glad I found you too :) You have always been an amazing source of encouragement to me.

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  7. I thank you, as I am sure many others are as they read your post today. I'm grateful there are women out there that write from their heart and share the good with the bad. And finally, I am so sorry you have had to go through the ravages of depression, as I have, too. Before my all too real "breakdown", I suffered from anxiety. It came out of the blue in my early thirties. I was a stay at home mom with 4 children under the age of ten. I made everything look easy as I'm a perfectionist, too. I got help immediately, I learned about chemical changes in the brain coupled with my very real issues I've grappled with in my life. But the depression, the full on "down on your knees" depression came many years later and it was like I was slowly sliding down into a snake pit. Then I couldn't talk, eat. come out of my bedroom. My daughters sat and held my hand and stared at my face, not knowing what to do. I felt nothing. There was a part of me that was saying, "I love all of you", but I couldn't get the words out. Finally my husband got me back to the doctor and he put me on meds, what he called, "Bringing out the big guns". It took days but I slowly felt better. I could take a shower, be left home alone. Never once did I think of suicide...I just saw nothing ahead of me.

    So that's my story. It took years to wean off the meds, to be sure I wouldn't have a relapse. If I ever feel a twinge of that depression, I will get help. If I see anybody with those symptoms, I will help them get help. As far as writing about it on my blog...it's a difficult thought. I write about my life but I rarely delve into the past. I try to focus on the beauty of "now". I'm confident that the stigma of mental illness is going to change, especially with the social media at our fingertips.

    Thank you again, Alice, for being so honest and real. You write so eloquently, I will never think of you as a one dimensional blogger...you have a lot to say.

    Keep up the good fight!

    Jane xx

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    1. Thank you so much Jane for sharing your story here with me. I can definitely relate and understand about not being able to open up about parts of it on your blog. There are still things about my past (and present) that don't make it here because I want to focus mostly on the good and beauty I see every day. I am so glad that you got help and that you walked through it finding hope again. Your words today have been a huge encouragement to me, so thank you for that!

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  8. I would say I have been there, but as you know and stated very eloquently above, it never leaves us. It is just quiet at times. I think your post is amazing at putting into words what living with depression is like. Sometimes I am the ghost waiting for someone to see me, and sometimes my depression is the ghost waiting to slip in like a foggy mist into the forefront. I read a sentence in one of the many articles about Robin Williams online just after his death. It said depression is not something you can get over, if the funniest man on earth couldn't snap out of depression then it's not something you can just get over. That's paraphrased because I can't remember the exact wording, but it struck me as very important. Like you mentioned sometimes depression is seen as something a person can get over or snap out of, and that is not the case at all. Putting it in perspective as the "funniest man on earth" combined with depression really seemed to make that real. I hope others will see the comparison. I have depression, I will always have it, I can mange it really well at times, other times, I wish to float away, to simply cease to exist. That is a very low place to be in. However there is always a light behind the curtain, at the end of the tunnel, like you I would encourage anyone who feels that low or before to know you are not alone. Loneliness is a terrible thing that can eat away at you but you are never truly alone.

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    1. While it completely makes me sad that someone so talented and beautiful as you Kimberly, knows what I have gone through, it is always an encouragement to not feel alone. Thank you for sharing your story with me. It means so much.

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  9. Alice, I really appreciate your transparency about your struggles with depression. As Christians, too many of us have been taught to sweep things under the rug and stuff our emotions. If we are honest, we all struggle with something. I truly believe it is only in sharing our weaknesses as you have today that we can be healed. Thank you again for sharing from your heart.

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  10. Alice, your an amazing lady, authentic, and oh so beautiful.
    Truly Gods plan for you was so much bigger then your plans, he turned your plan around and gave you purpose. My mother suffers with manic depression, so hard to deal with for her, and even though I don't suffer this battling Mental health issue, I so can comprehend what this dark feeling is all about. When I went through my divorce it was a dark time, numbing as you put it, and a time beyond tears, a feeling of despair sinking deep with a feeling of your buried alive with fear. I suffered with a bit of postpartum after the birth of my son and could not grasp why I felt the way I did?
    I do know that when God touches your heart with leaning on him for strength, giving all your pain to him life turns around.....
    He answers your prayers and cry's for help!

    Alice you are a beautiful force to follow, learn from, and gather strength from, you have posted a méssage of hope, and placing your troubles at the feet of our Lord, and watch him show up.

    Many prays to you my sweet strong friend.

    Xx
    See you soon.

    Dore

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  11. Your post was so raw and so real. I remember reading those posts from years ago and admiring you for exposing the dark secret of post partum depression. I did not realize this has been a life long battle for you. You are so courageous to write this post and I am so glad you can find your way through that curtain each and every day.

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  12. Alice, I've been here too. Thank you so much for being brave enough to tell your story here. I know there are many who will feel relief just from knowing they are not alone in what they are feeling. Pointing people to hope is no small thing, and I know you will be blessed for it.

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  13. What a joy to read this after the week it's been. Thank you for being willing to share such a personal story and give hope to others who are struggling to find a way out of the darkness. We need to be vulnerable with each other and as believers, share hope and share our stories. Very powerful, Alice.

    Alison

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  14. Alice, thank you so much for sharing this post. I know it couldn't have been easy to write and share especially when we try to make our blogs happy places. I agree it is so important to discuss these feelings or people who are suffering depression will think they are alone and are the only ones. Love you! x

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  15. Alice, thank you for being brave enough to share your story. I've also struggled with depression, PPD and anxiety. I appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there so others may know they're not alone. ~Amy

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  16. Alice, this is such a wonderful and poignant post. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I had PPD with both my girls and that was 34 and 40 years ago. There wasn't a name for it, and no one talked about it. I was all alone with my desperate thoughts. I felt like a terrible mom. Being unable to breast feed caused me so much guilt and the pediatrician's office and lactation counselor were only adding to the problem. no support. My hormones finally straightened out, but I just wish I'd known at the time that this is somewhat common and that I could get some help. People don't understand that our brain is an organ, just like the rest of our organs and sometimes a chemical imbalance caused by an over amount of stress or hormonal imbalance can throw things off. I'm an advocate of talking about these things instead of allowing other's to heap guilt and shame on this subject. I wrote and taught a Bible Study on depression about 15 years ago, where we examined all aspects of depression. Most people didn't "get" the fact that often it is a real physical problem and not just a spiritual or emotional issue. thanks again for sharing your testimony.

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  17. For whatever reason, I tried 3 x's the day you wrote this and my comment would not go through......now I can't remember what I wanted to say, but just know that you touched me deeply with your honesty and raw emotion!! kindred spirits find each other! Glad you had a VOICE! Blessings, Susanne

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  18. Beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

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  19. Beautiful. You are so brave. Thank you for taking the emotions and time to write this...

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  20. Thank you. Although I am not a Christian, I was able to relate on so many levels.
    there are times I would be driving and just think "If I just drive into that pole, it'd be fine"
    I've also had to stop taking baths for the same reason you stated, I would imagine drowning myself, or the bath water turning red. It was sad, I've had so many days where the best idea would be to just end it.. but i knew if I could just stay a little while longer.. it'd get better.

    Let's hope we can all get through this together.

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  21. In the midst of all the holiday craft this do that, (which I love and appreciate), I find this, because it's right there on your sidebar. Thank you. Though I too have struggled with depression, and it will likely rear its head when I least expect it, I appreciate your sharing because my heart cries for others. I'm in a sunny place right now, but I always want to be prepared with a word when someone needs it, an acknowledgement. I want to see people. I wanted to leave a comment here so that if (heaven forbid) a dark fog settles on you again, you can come back to these comments and know that you are not alone. Thank you so much for sharing. Consider me a new fan.
    Cassandra E

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  22. Psalm 40:2King James Version (KJV)

    2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
    This is the verse that I want to someday write a book about. The title will be "Out of the Miry Clay".
    When I read your testimony, I saw so much of my life in it. But I have hope. God had blessed me with a wonderful, supportive family, a wise and longsuffering care team, and my church family.
    I don't know what to say here, just wanted you to know I was here.
    *Hugs*

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  23. Alice, I saw this post on your sidebar. I have not struggled with depression but I have struggled with anxiety, and even though there are different things, some of the feelings are a little bit similar, like fear and that out of control panic/despair. Thank you for being open about it. I found out that for me what worked well was therapy, including EMDR therapy for PTSD that was putting those out of control thoughts that were totally distorted to a more "rational" part of the brain using a device that "zaps" in your hand from one to another. It took almost three years, but I feel better. I am in another place.And of course, faith in the Lord that He was the only one that carried me through my darkest moments. I encourage people that struggle with any anxiety disorder, PTSD or trauma to try "eye movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR).

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  24. I have no idea how I stumbled across you... Your blog... Today. But here I am and in tears after reading your description of ME! Everything I have felt, that could never put words to to adequately explain, you poured out in this post. Thank you! A million times, thank you! Praise God that I stumbled across this, today!

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  25. Alice, thank you for your post about depression & suicide. I suffer from the same feelings, even with medication, counseling, and the Lord. It's just a part of me - I can remember being depressed when I was a small child. You are so brave to "lay it all out" on your blog. I know you must have helped many people. God bless you.

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  26. This is an amazing testimony and I'm so proud of you for sharing. I had a lot of these feelings too especially when my kids were young. God is so good!

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  27. I was reading your post this morning about the cabin bedroom (that bed!!! soooo perfect!) and this post caught my eye. Such a beautifully written piece, Alice! And I applaud your vulnerability in sharing such a deep place in your heart. So many need to hear they are not alone in their pain; and by making it public, you are allowing God to use your story. And that's why He gives all of us broken people a story- just so we will share it!! We are beautiful messes in His eyes! Thank you, again. (Maybe this post needs to be repeated once a year?!!)

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  28. Thank you Alice for sharing your story. The Lord works in mysterious ways and he pulls us back when we think there is no where to go. I too was devestated when we lost Robin who was a beacon for so many of us with his immense talent. I have never experienced this type of depression but I did have ppd after my second child. My heart goes out to you and I am so happy that you have found a light at the end of the tunnel. And I agree with Candy above, you should post this once a year as a reminder.

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Thank you for your comments! I love to hear from you! Due to an increase in spam comments, I have had to enable word verification. I apologize for any inconvenience this causes. ~Alice W.